Mary Gunn Brown and Governor B. Gratz Brown
Ornament insert write-up
Mary Gunn Brown and Gov. B. Gratz Brown, year: 2014 Ornament
The Browns were the first couple to live in the current Executive Mansion. In January, 1871, upon being elected Governor of Missouri for a two year term, the Brown family moved into the 1834 Executive Mansion. It was soon apparent that a new executive residence was needed. The General Assembly appropriated $50,000 and soon Governor Brown met with architects and builders, finally selecting Mr. Alfred Piquenard and Mr. George Ingham Barnett as the architects and Mr. Gottlieb Martin as the builder. On January 20, 1872, the Brown family moved into the new home. Their gift of the four large granite columns on the portico from their quarry In Iron County marked the tradition of each family leaving a memorial gift. The first guest in the new residence was the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia arriving for a luncheon in a plush railway car rented for $3,500 per day accompanied by General George Custer who was his guide through the west. Later that evening a large ball and reception was held for the public to open the new mansion.
Simultaneous to the construction of the Executive Mansion, as his mother-in-law owned the property across the street, he personally commissioned the same architect and builder as the Mansion to design and build the row houses directly across the street from the Executive Mansion. His purpose was to provide a home for his mother-in-law and sister-in-law as well as a temporary residence for his own family until the Executive Mansion was completed. It is now the present location of the Cole County Historical Society.
Mary Hansome Gunn Brown
Born in 1842 in Jefferson City to Mr. and Mrs. Calvin Gunn, past mayor of Jefferson and a State Printer, Mary grew up in a house on land now occupied by the Cole County Historical Society. She met B. Gratz while still a teen and the couple married three months later in her family’s Jefferson City home. The Browns lived in St. Louis and on a farm in Ironton for much of their married lives. Although Mary was not in good health, six daughters and two sons were born. She died three years after her husband.
B. Gratz Brown
B. Gratz came from a prominent political family in Frankfort, Kentucky. His grandfather, John Brown was the First US Senator from Kentucky, studied law under Thomas Jefferson and build a spacious mansion called Liberty Hall which served several generations. Grandmother Margaretta Mason Brown, daughter of the Reverend John Mason of New York City, has a big influence on the family. For example, she considered owning slaves to morally wrong. When the family found it necessary to hire servants and to purchase slaves they were emancipated at the age of 25. This has a profound effect on Gratz his entire life and he worked hard for the rights of the black people.
The couple had five children, only two sons surviving, Mason and Orlando; both were Secretaries of State and Attorneys. Mason wed Judith Bledsoe in 1825, and in May, 1826 in Lexington, Kentucky their son Benjamin Gratz was born. When his mother died he went to live in an all adult household at Liberty Hall; while attending Transylvania University he lived with his uncle and five sons and his twenty year old cousin, Frank Blair.
Upon graduation from Yale College, B. Gratz studied law with his father at Louisville Law School and in St. Louis he joined the law firm of Frank and Montgomery Blair in 1849. He was a firm believer in the Union, emancipation and the Clay Whigs.
In July, 1852, B. Gratz and others purchased the St. Louis Morning Signal paper which later was called the Missouri Democrat enabling him to write editorials and to become editor-in-chief. Because Gratz knew many Germans, supported Thomas Hart Benton and the Free-Soil program he was thus elected from the First District to the Lower House of the Missouri Assembly.
In 1856, Thomas C. Reynolds and B. Gratz challenged each other to a duel which took place on a sandbar on the Mississippi River. A bullet wound in the knee was suffered by B. Gratz but Mr. Reynolds was not hurt. This was the last known duel in St. Louis where there was bloodshed.
Among the dominant issues of the day were Missouri’s two railroad companies known as the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad Company and the Pacific Railroad of Missouri concerning land grants. In 1858 B. Gratz organized the Citizens Railway Company of St. Louis as he wanted to construct the first street railroad.
On December 14, 1863, B. Gratz became a US Senator following in the footsteps of both of his grandfathers. In September, 1864, Colonel B. Gratz Brown had a brief command of the exempts of St. Louis organized for defense of the city when General Sterling price threatened to attack. In January, 1871, he assumed the office of Governor of Missouri for a two year term.
The Browns moved back to St. Louis a year later where Governor Brown practiced law until his death at age 59, on December 13, 1885. Mary Gunn Brown died three years after B. Gratz at the age of 46.
Margaret Wise Brown, granddaughter of Governor Brown is the author of the well known book “Goodnight Moon.” She also wrote “Big Dog, Little Dog.” “Golden Egg Book,” “Nibble: Poems for Children,” Red Light, Green Light,” The Little Cowboy” and others.
Researched and written by Ann M. Spencer.